The original Deus Ex was an excitingly different game, with a decent storyline (a very radical move when the game came out), with some scenes depending solely on conversations with non–player characters, as well as the more traditional first–person action play. The atmosphere was wonderfully overcrowded and seedy, providing a setting for a well–written story in a well–designed game. But the thing that really made the game stand out was the political philosophy at the core of the story. I didn’t agree with it, I thought it was all a bit too simple, but it was wonderful to have doubt and difficult decisions at the heart of game, and it turned Deus Ex from merely exciting into something revolutionary. Unusually for computer games, Deus Ex has serious artistic merit.
Like the film industry, creating a follow up to a success is a choice between taking the safe option of not quite doing the same again, or taking risks with something more radical. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, Deus Ex deux (correctly Deus Ex: The Invisible War) is more of not quite the same—the games industry is, after all, an industry. The new game offers no gaming revolution. The political philosophy is not at the core of the game, it's neatly nailed on. It’s more than an expansion pack, though, with some interesting storyline context changes which reflect the greater uncertainty in our the modern world.
The game opens with a terrorist act destroying Chicago. You play another Alex D, an inheritor of the original hero of Deus Ex, making your own way in a world of vicious and opportunistic factions. It’s not obvious which character is working for what faction, with double crossing and secret alliances aplenty. This could have made the game a challenging balancing act, with the player being forced to try and keep all factions sweet until (s)he has to finally make a choose which faction to support at the end. Unfortunately, this challenge was wrecked for me part way through the game when one faction leader admitted having committed that act of terrorism. I would much prefer that question never to have been answered, with the player being forced to doubt all the factions and make the decision on which faction to support from that position of doubt.
The graphics are good, although there are no outdoor scenes until the end (so I recall), and they are nothing compared to Far Cry. The game play is not bad, mainly more of the same. The skills feature of the original Deus Ex was rather clunky, and has been improved, but, to be absolutely honest, I never really saw the point of it. It makes it difficult to change strategy more than once in the game.
Oh, and I liked the Penguins.